Are you ready to tap into Employees’ Social Skills?

Social skills have always been important to work, though their vital role is not always well recognized. With the growing sophistication of management techniques and the meteoric rise of social media, they have leapt to the forefront, and are now on the minds of recruiters and managers looking. But if you want to make the most of these skills, it is not enough just to recruit the socially adept. You need to find ways to best channel the social skills of all your employees.

The Age of Social Skills

A recent paper by David J. Deming illustrates the long term rise of social skills. Analyzing data gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor, Deming found a steady increase in the importance of social skills across the American workforce since 1980. In the space of a generation, the amount of time committed to social tasks rose by 24%, and continued to rise even as other rising skill sets went into decline.

The importance of this finding cannot be overstated. The prominent place social skills have gained in recent years is not just a reflection of the rise of social media. It is part of a long term trend, one that looks set to continue. Your workforce will increasingly be focused on social tasks, and you need to be ready for that.

The Danger of the Vague

Making your business more socially skilled is not just a matter of employing people with those skills and hoping for the best. Even recruiting for social skills in focused areas won’t achieve great results if you don’t think about what you want those skills to achieve.

As with employee engagement on improvement schemes, recruiting a pool of socially skilled people can backfire. If not directed properly, those skills may be turned to gossiping and idle socializing around the office, developing unhelpful relationships with outside stakeholders, or simply becoming frustrated. Social people need to be given the opportunity to productively use their social skills.

Think about how you want those skills to be deployed, and then brief staff on this. Tell them what sorts of external relationships you want them to develop, how much it’s appropriate to spend time simply bonding as a team, and how you want them to present the company to the outside world.

If you are specific, you will get the results you want and avoid frustrating your skilled new employees.

Treating Social as a Skill

There is another way in which we need to treat social skills more like any other skill set. We need to develop them in existing employees.

Social skills, like creativity, are often treated as something magical and otherworldly, that people simply do or don’t have. But just like creativity, they should not be treated this way. They are learned techniques that can always be improved. They can and should be fostered and developed in the staff you have.

Over 70% of workers believe that their performance improves when they receive feedback. Goals are 46% more likely to be achieved if they are written down. Why wouldn’t you want to see these sorts of results in the most important and growing skill set, social skills?

It won’t always be easy, but finding targets and measures for social skills is a vital part of improving them. Make managers responsible for feeding back to staff on their use of social skills. Set targets around how they are used. Provide training and mentoring. If you value social skills, then show it.

All work involves human interaction, and social skills are vital for that. So don’t just recruit for them – channel them, develop them, and see them shine.